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Happiness

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“If you want to view paradise–simply look around and view it
anything you want to–do it!
want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.
There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination.”

The Willy Wonka words echo off my computer as I awake on Saturday morning. However, in my head, I am changing the words–I am swapping out paradise, and slotting in Happiness. Because if you want to view happiness–I believe we can all look around and view it.

And Saturday, I was going to make sure of it.

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As I wake up, on Saturday, I say to myself, “Today–is an important day. Today, I am completing my 52nd hobby.” For anyone who has been following along, you’ll know that my original goal for this project turned lifestyle was to try 52 new hobbies in 52 weeks. About two months ago that goal changed–My new plan is to finish at least one hobby a week for 52 weeks, ending with a road trip across the country in February. But that doesn’t mean my 52nd hobby isn’t a significant one. In fact, it’s one of the ones that means the most to me–because it’s a sign of achievement–even if my new goal is to exceed it.

“Anything you want to, do it” plays through my speakers, and I smile.

“Today I am going to complete my 52nd hobby,” I breathe of relief.

***Never doubt a dream, always move forward…Like the song says…
Anything you want to do…Do it.***

But though my excitement for hobby 52 is high on Saturday, my will to go out and do it is quickly hampered as I wake up and see that it’s cold–and gray–but not just cold and gray–it’s pretty much a frigid apocalypse outside with gusting winds up to 50mph and snow flurries pleasantly beginning to fall. I struggle. It would be the perfect day to stay in bed–all day, to get dressed at 5pm and eat cereal for all three meals in my pajamas. But I had made a plan–and that plan included to complete my 52nd hobby, by traveling to each of the five boroughs and chalking the word happiness. I groggily got out of bed and decided that this was better than chalking happiness when the weather is perfect–because in the case of clear skies, people are likely to already feel happier. This was my time to spread happiness–even if the weather was threatening otherwise.

It took me no more than 7 hours to complete my trip to each borough and tattoo the word happiness into the sidewalk of each.

It took me no more than 7 hours to etch happiness right outside my doorstep in Brooklyn. It took me no more than 7 hours to experience the excitement of families going on the Staten Island Ferry and having an amazing view of Manhattan. It took me no more than 7 hours to witness the wealth of joy outside the doorstep of my favorite chocolate shop in Manhattan, as a homeless man approached me and thanked me for the happiness.It took me no more than 7 hours to clear my negative image of the Bronx and leave a positive message behind. And it took me no more than 7 hours to make my way to Queens and chalk happiness into a park that I once danced happiness into–just two years ago.

The truth was–that in each borough– It took me no more than moments to see that even though I was physically spreading the word happiness–it was all around me. It was in the faces of children who’d never been on a boat. It was in the faces of those who told me they had nothing but still felt joy. It was in the faces of those walking through streets of the Bronx—and it was in the faceof the child who stood up on the subway seat and peered out the window on an above ground train heading to Queens. It was in the taxi driver who got me from downtown Manhattan to Grand Central. It was in the cappuccino that I drank mid-morning. It was in the face of the man with his child who strolled past me on Fordham Road. It was in the skateboarders who skated through the park while I finished my last borough tattoo. Happiness was truly–everywhere.

And what I learned most about happiness–aside from where to find it (ahem, again, everywhere): was that much like my chalked out versions of the word: Happiness doesn’t always come in a straight line–in one swoop–or even in one size–but it always, always feels good.

Here’s to 52 hobbies–and many, many more. and here is to happiness. Cheers.

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A special message from The Hobby Hoarder during these tough times:

I can see the Empire State Building from the front door of my apartment building in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The lights are shining bright. Whether the lights to the south or the north of it are on–on any given night–I wouldn’t be able to tell you. But this past week I know that for a good portion of time, most of the lights south of the Empire State Building were off. And even still, now, many of the lights in Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island, the state of New Jersey, and across the Harbor in Staten Island are off.

My family and friends in Pennsylvania spent days in hotels, office buildings, and at bars huddling for phone charges and heat. My professors and friends in Rhode Island watched as the Atlantic Ocean hurdled over the Narragansett Wall creating rivers on main roads, knocking out power to many, and destroying one of the city’s most popular restaurants–the Coast Guard House. Kids were off from schools–hospitals were evacuated–subway tunnels were flooded– the coast of Jersey was completely destroyed, and worse of all–lives were taken.

As we all know, Hurricane Sandy ripped through the East Coast leaving many states powerless and many residents homeless.

Up until today, all the devastation I knew was what I saw in photos–through Tweets, Instagram, and Facebook.

I spent the week working from home, feeling selfish that I wasn’t on the front line helping people–that I wasn’t there putting together recovery packages for strangers–that I wasn’t helping. I realized very quickly that even if I wanted to be on the front line–my help would be exhausted shortly as my strength is not in my arms, but rather in my voice.

When the power went out, for most, on Monday evening, all they saw was darkness. They lost the ability to watch thew news–to follow Tweets–or to get Facebook updates. I kept power–and instead of sleeping, I stayed connected. I followed Twitter until my eyes dimmed, and then early in the morning, I texted my friends who I knew had lost power to see if they were alright. By the middle of the day I had heard from many New Yorkers, and several hometown friends in Pennsylvania. “Can you just update me–I have no idea what happened after it went dark.” “Are the trains going to be able to run?” “What happened?” “When will my power come back?” “How bad was it?” My strength was now my ability to accurately relay messages to them from various news sources including New York Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Morning Call, and the Daily News.

I found myself Tweeting updates–Facebooking the latest breaking news–and realizing that even if I couldn’t be out there in the Far Rockaways where homes had burned down–even if I couldn’t be in Staten Island–even if I couldn’t be in the basement of someone’s home emptying out water–I could be making a difference . I could be informing people.

So I continued informing people, looked for more ways to help, donated food and supplies to the Far Rockaways via friends with cars, and woke up this morning with one mission: Find a way to get out there.

I read through my email of countless volunteer opportunities to see which one I could get to by bike, foot, or limited public transit. Staten Island had a call for helpers in several areas, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to reach many of them without a car–and that I likely wasn’t strong enough for many of the things people needed. And then one popped out to me:

10:30AM: NORTH SHORE. Go door-to-door distributing helpful information about warming centers, power stations and recovery to North Shore neighborhoods still without power. Spanish speaking a plus. LOCATION: State Senator Diane Savino’s office, 36 Richmond Terrace right across from the Staten Island Ferry. RSVP tokmotley@pubadvocate.nyc.gov

I re-read the post. “Go door-to-door distributing helpful information.”

‘I can do that,’ I thought, and so I RSVP’ed right away. Soon after, Piers Morgan ReTweeted a photo by Stephanie Gosk from NBC of herds of New York Marathoners making their way onto the Staten Island Ferry–not to run their race, but to run to places that needed help. If these people were going to run 5-7 miles to the underside of the Island–I could sure as hell get myself, somehow, someway to the Staten Island Ferry and walk across the street, to do what I do best–Give information. A walk, a cab, a train, a cab, and a ferry ride later I was sitting in an office at 36 Richmond Terrace preparing to head out to neighborhoods that had been without power for days.

I realized in this moment–that a little help–goes a long way. As the temperature dips to close to freezing tonight, many people not only in Staten Island, but around the tri-state area, and points further north will continue to live without power–without heat. The information we passed around today informed members of the Staten Island community where they could go for shelter or warming centers. The information we passed along today–could save someone’s life.

I don’t like to preach. I’m more of “an inspire by doing” type person. But in this case. I don’t mind preaching a bit: A dollar you give–a minute you give–an hour you give- a day that you give–blood that you give–could save someone’s life.  Many shelters in New York City are turning away volunteers BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO MANY. This is a GOOD–no–GREAT thing. It means plenty of hands are on deck to help.  Maybe you aren’t into knocking on people’s doors and distributing info, maybe all the shelters are filled to capacity with volunteers, and maybe you don’t have the strength to carry packages of bottled water–but there is always a way to help–and always someone in need.

Oh and P.S. Cause I am a bit of a hippie. Don’t forget about Love. Keep Loving.

To my friends in New York City–My friends in New Jersey–My family and friends in Pennsylvania–and my Professors and friends in Rhode Island–and all those along the East Coast–This one’s for you. 
Check out these places for more opportunities to aid in Hurricane Sandy Relief
 Red Cross
 WNYC
 Brokelyn 
 Life Vest Inside
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“The Resilient Ones”:

“New Yorkers are resilient. They’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway. They’ve experienced bombs rumble under ground. They’ve watched their iconic buildings collapsed. And each time they’ve risen to the occasion to come back—to reassemble—to regain their composure—to help a neighbor—or a friend—or the elderly—or a child. New York is filled with people who fight battles every day to survive metaphorical storms. And today, with this very real aftermath of a devastating storm—New York is still filled with those people—those same resilient people. And I know we’ll all get through this, together. New York City is our home–and it’s not going anywhere–and neither are we.”
-The Resilient Ones
Publishes on Libs on the Reel and One for the Table
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